A diet for the mind

We’ve all been told that dieting doesn’t work. It’s not the diet the sabotages you but the idea that a) you can keep it up and b) you will continuously thrive in this depleted and sacrificial state.

Losing weight is pretty easy: eat less and exercise more. Ta-dah! Now I will wave my fairy godmother wand and it will work.

Harry Potter Wands

Does saying “Engorgio!” backwards work, Harry?  (Photo credit: tony sak)

There are as many reasons why a specific diet won’t work long-term as there are people. Each person has a different body, metabolism, nutritional requirements, and motivation. I’m just a girl running, not a doctor, so I only know what has worked for me.

When I was pregnant I found I was really in tune with my body. I ate what my body needed and felt really good. I continued to exercise throughout my pregnancy and put on a healthy amount of weight. Once my baby was born I was in a shocked and sleep-deprived state. I ate whatever I could that would make me feel better: mostly emotionally better. This only worked short-term. When you’ve been up all night with a colicky baby and you feel nauseous and you have to start your day with this same baby, the last thing you emotionally crave is a bowl of oatmeal and a leafy salad. No: you want coffee, probably really dry toast, and then later you’ll want chocolate. You want stimulus and an endorphin kick to get through both you and the baby crying.

As a runner, running long distances equals a higher calorie burn. I feel hungrier because of the energy output but my body needs food as fuel for energy. I can’t just throw back a few glasses of wine and eat a bags of Cheetos after each run. I may not gain weight, but in the long-term I won’t feel very good.

As a runner I want to run faster and having less bulk to heave along is one way to get there. There are many calculators you can use to figure out your ideal racing weight.  I will never lose 10 lbs to knock off minutes from my half-marathon or marathon time. I don’t need to have a LuluLemon body but I could do without the spare-tire feeling. It makes me feel lethargic and it’s the feeling I want to lose, not necessarily the weight.

English: Part of tutorial in Human body diagra...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Overall, I think the basic premise on what to eat is in how it makes you feel. Food, in its basic form, is fuel. We put good fuel in our body and our body can perform better and we are more emotionally balanced. Our emotional reaction to our body image is often distorted by the underlying issue of how we *feel* about ourselves, not our physical appearance.

Give yourself a hug, no matter how you look. Take a break from bad-mouthing yourself or looking at the mirror in spite. Go on an emotional diet and let your hunger dictate what you eat, not your moods.

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22 thoughts on “A diet for the mind

  1. “Food, in its basic form, is fuel.”—Yes! I often say, you wouldn’t put Coca Cola in your car’s gas tank, because it wouldn’t run. So why put crap in your body? It won’t run well if you do. Obviously, splurges are okay–where would I be without my chocolate?–but I like the 90/10 rule (or the 80/20 rule): 9 things out of 10 you put in your body should be good for you. 1 out of 10 things doesn’t have to be.

    • I’ve heard of people who eat well for 6 days and then have one day where they totally splurge. But given you can consume a few days worth of calories in a few helpings of bad food choices, that seems like a large hole to dig out of for just some mouth-feel satisfaction.

  2. Most of the female runners I know all carry around that “spare tire,” including myself. Especially when I’m training and putting in the higher mileage, I am hungry all the time. Even worse, I CRAVE carbs and sweets. Eating better is the one thing I still struggle with as a runner.

    • I think it’s that mentality that you deserve/need those things that taste and make us feel good (in high mileage weeks) that really is hard to grapple with. I know that when I was nearing the end of marathon training I felt hungry ALL the time. But when I really fed myself well my mood was better and I was physically recovering faster.
      (Btw, I found brown rice to be greatly satiating for my carb/sweets cravings).

  3. I love this and I love the idea that food is fuel! That’s exactly what works for me and what not only keeps my body healthy but what makes me feel the best. Garbage food makes me feel good emotionally instantly but awful later on (guilt, bloat, etc.). Great food benefits me both emotionally and physically!!

    • Hello Honest,
      I think that once we get to a place where we can feel! the benefits of food as fuel it makes a huge difference. Staying there can also take some discipline — so easy to cheat a little and then cheat some more — but knowing how much better you feel can help sway choices.
      Thanks for your thoughts.

      • I lack the discipline and enjoy the cheats, sometimes too much! But I always know deep down what I have to do to make myself feel my best so I think as long as cheats are taken understanding this I’m ok!

  4. “Give yourself a hug, no matter how you look. Take a break from bad-mouthing yourself or looking at the mirror in spite. Go on an emotional diet and let your hunger dictate what you eat, not your moods.”

    Such good advice.

    • The mouth can sometimes be faster than the brain with the scoop (pun intended). I sometimes eat a few squares of chocolate before realizing that a) I didn’t want to do that and b) I didn’t NEED it like I thought I did. Our habits can be just as addictive as what we use to soothe ourselves.

  5. I AGREE with you. I felt like I am eating more now ever since I started running/working out. They said if you are working out to lose weight, you should not eat before (or a banana would be fine), if you are planning to workout/run for only 30 mins, so your body will use the fat for energy expenditure. More than 30 minutes, that is when you need to fuel up before.

    • If you are exercising regularly and not gaining weight and feel good, you are prob doing all the right things!
      Thanks for your comments – good point about eating before exercising.

  6. Tania, I usually don’t diet and when I did I realized that I did a lot of emotional eating. I have since curbed that and try to recognize food as fuel, energy needed. I find when I eat better food, I actually feel a lot better and have more energy. It’s not rocket science I guess, but sometimes it’s hard not to want the sweet treat! I guess all in moderation isn’t bad. I find eating more protein has helped me, too.

    • I think when we restrict something so severely it often gets counterbalanced by an indulgence elsewhere. And that’s hard to keep up. It’s so true that eating well is not rocket science, but it can seem like it sometimes. (Sigh). I’ve also found that upping my intake of lean, filling protein has really helped with my food choices and carb balance.

  7. Love it! If we fill our body with what it wants then we are less likely to overeat. We have satisfied the craving. Not a huge fan of the diet either. Just keep running/exercising and listen to your body. That is the key!

    • I think the more we stick to basics and what our bodies need, the more we CAN stick to it. After a while the extra “needs” and cravings that we indulge become less and less. I try to indulge in what my body can tolerate, not just what my eyes see.

  8. Pingback: Daily Prompt; The Interview | terry1954

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